Becoming a parent can be a life-changing experience that requires many adjustments in your daily routine. Before having a child, your days may have been filled with work, taking care of a pet, fixing up around the house, or cooking meals. But now, as a parent, you have the responsibility of taking care of and raising a baby. No matter what phase you and your partner are in, this experience will likely require both of you to make some adjustments in your day-to-day life.
According to research, the satisfaction of relationships wavers at similar amounts for both parents and non-parents, but the changes in the relationships of parents tend to happen following the birth of the baby, and gradually for non-parents. During this time, you may find that bonding over a newborn will bring you both closer than ever. Equally typical is finding that all these new responsibilities start to create some distance in your relationship when it comes to intimacy. You’ll likely find that your days and nights are spent more focused on caring for your little one and less on just each other. These changes may make you feel that things are not quite right. However, the persistence of these feelings can also encourage you to make sincere efforts to communicate and find new ways to enjoy your relationship together.
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy relationship while navigating parenthood:
When it comes to relationships, having consistent, open, and honest communication can ensure the two of you can understand and empathize with each other. As you transition into parenthood, share your expectations - What does being a partner mean to you? What do you need from your partner? What has surprised you in this transition? What is something you wish would change? Routinely check in and connect with one another. Whether it be a set day a week, or a part of your daily routine, be sure to prioritize communicating what you are feeling and experiencing. This communication will help you navigate this new chapter in your life together and may help you release some emotions as well.
Intimacy, whether physical or emotional, may be difficult to obtain while still healing from the physical tolls of pregnancy and birth, as well as the grueling middle-of-the-night wake-up sessions and constant feeding. Finding time for intimacy is a crucial aspect of a romantic relationship, and though there are new priorities on the list, these bids for intimacy should still make their way on the list, too. According to a study, greater sexual satisfaction was reported concurrently with lower stress for both men and women. It was also concluded that communicating about one’s own sexual needs, worries, and issues could foster positive sexual and relational satisfaction. If you’re refraining from physical activity, consider appreciating your partner’s love language and show intimacy and appreciation in a unique way that speaks to them. Don’t nix this component altogether, but update intimacy to fit your current needs.
It truly takes a village – and not just for the little one. The babysitters, family members, and friends who help out are taking care of your baby and you. If you have these support systems set up, the date nights you plan in advance is much more likely to happen, and that special alone time you both need will feel even better when you know your baby is in the care of someone you trust.
While you may feel as if you're the only one struggling with your relationship post-baby, majority of studies show that couples are generally less happy after they become parents; one study reports 67 percent of couples see their marital satisfaction plummet. Don’t hesitate to ask your village and network for advice on how they navigated partnership within parenthood - they may just have the perfect advice, or, at the very least, they can provide a listening ear as you express your feelings. Either way, their support and outside perspective will be beneficial in navigating this chapter.
The relationship with your partner has entered a new phase. The changes and uncertainties you may feel do not mean that you two are “off-track” but rather that the way you spend time together and how you approach your relationship needs to evolve. Consider times in the day when you can spend quality time together, such as during baby’s nap time, after the baby’s bedtime routine, or even during a daytime or evening stroll with baby in tow - but the key is to clearly communicate and align on new expectations.
Obtaining the title “parent” can be one of your life’s most exciting and memorable times. This new title changes your other titles, including “partner.” It may take time to figure out the best way to communicate or the best day of the week or time during the day you and your partner can connect and spend time together. Once you do, be sure to be honest and empathetic. You’re on this journey of parenthood together. Don’t forget that it wouldn’t have started without the beautiful relationship you have already created before the arrival of your little one – celebrate and enjoy that!